Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Going to Bath

Obviously, this one was started en route..........

Raquelle---It was time to pack up and leave Scotland (cry!). Our packing has gotten a little complex as we've started to buy souvenirs. We have begun the Great Luggage Swirl, as suitcase weight is an issue. Everytime we have to fly somewhere, we have a massive swapping spree and exchange heavy things from one person's suitcase with fat fluffy things from another's, big with little, fragile with non-fragile, etc. However, the nice thing about THIS trip was we could just mash the whole wad into the back of the car and not worry about it!!! Yeehaw!!!!

Now, I'm off to do the Great Luggage Swirl as we prepare to come home tomorrow.....I'll let Heather have a turn for a minute. We're trading off, because the rooms are really almost too small for both of us to pack at once. :D

Heather - So we finally managed to get our assorted 7 suitcases, 7 bags, 2 containers of chocolate, one box of kleenexes (for Dad's cold), and approximately 38 (mostly empty) water bottles into the two cars. Whew. We slowly pulled out of the car park and headed out of Edinburgh. We took a last shot or two of the castle as we went by, so if you see a rather blurry castle photo, that's what it's from.

Once clear of Edinburgh, we found ourselves traveling down some really back country lanes for a while. So we pulled off at a scenic spot to take some pictures. This was the first time I'd ever seen heather in bloom, which I thought was cool since that's my name. It's usually purple-ish up close, but on the faraway hills, it's a deep brownish burgundy color. Pretty.

We drove through the Cottswolds, as I think they're called and finally came to the freeway... er, motorway. There was a large rest stop there so we took a break. They don't call them rest stops, they call them "services" and they occur roughly 15-30 miles apart on the freeway, just like in the States. One of the chains there is called "Welcome Break" and includes a gas station, several restaurants, etc.

Since there were several large restaurants there, we figured some grub in the hand was worth two on a billboard and decided to eat. (Although as a side note, there are very few food-related billboards in the UK. Guess people just don't go around eating every two minutes like in the US. In fact, there are very few billboards about ANYTHING, period.) That's when we saw a most exciting food option. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, right there in the hinterlands of ancient Hibernia (the latin name for Scotland) we were given a special on the menu option for Tex Mex Vegetarian Lasagna with Yogurt Mint Sauce!!! You can imagine our great excitement. We could hardly contain ourselves, in fact. The natives probably wondered about our wild giggles and gestures towards the "specials" sign. Alas, though, it is sad to relate that none of us chose to eat Tex Mex Vegetarian Lasagna, in spite of the added pleasure of Mint Sauce. That's one cultural experience we shall just have to save for next time.

Instead, we chose some traditional dishes like cottage pie (like chicken pot pie, only the top crust is mashed potatoes and cheese) or beef and mushroom pie. Mmmm! Quite good for rest stop food!

Raquelle--Mom opted to order a spicy beef dish in an Indian sauce over rice. The waiter had an extremely thick brogue and was almost impossible to understand. "Wou'ee'lyke'undeen'bray'wi'theemeel?" he asked.

Mom looked at him blankly. "I'm sorry, I can't understand what you're saying," she apologized.

He leaned forward and enunciated more clearly. "Would ye lyke undeen brayd weeth th' mele?" he tried again.

"Undeen bread?" Mom repeated.

Suddenly it clicked. "Indian bread!" I said.

Oh! Yes, she'd have Indian bread. It was a flat, thin bread...reminded me a little bit of communion crackers. But I betcha the clerk probably thought we were just a wee bit daft for not figuring out what he'd said the first time. Crazy Americans. :D

Heather and I bought a large chocolate cookie for dessert and magnanimously handed bites to everyone. Thus stuffed, we resumed our journey.

Heather--We got back on the road, feeling great and ready to burn up the miles. That's when we ran into... well, we would call it "construction." Over in the UK they call it "works." Turned out (about half an hour later) that we discovered they were repainting a white line on the road. No, not by hand, but they might as well have been for how fast it was going. :D Meanwhile, we got to crawl... and crawl... and crawl... for miles, without seeing anything other than heather-hills, rock walls and sheep. Picturesque but a little boring. Especially when you have 6 hours of driving to go.

One slightly entertaining thing that happened was a very noisy truck pulled alongside Dad and I. I thought at first that the truck needed some oil as it groaned and squealed most dismally. However, it turns out that the truck was hauling pigs, who were doing the groaning and squealing. One pig in particular was evidently gifted with elocutionary powers and was holding forth to his comrades at great length. They appeared to agree, grunting most vociferously.

At last we were on our way again, but what with "services" stops, the slowdown, navigating unfamiliar roads and such, we ended up stretching a 6.5 hour drive into a 9 hour drive. The last hour was the worst. We were afraid we would get to our B&B in Bath too late for the dinner they had promised us. And we weren't up to exploring Bath at night to find another place to eat, not to mention having already paid for the B&B dinner.

The GPS routed us through the nearby town of Bristol, which was rather hair raising as we navigated downtown. (Bristol is a kind of dirty, industrial town.) Then, just as we were getting a little calmer, we wound up going through downtown Bath as well. The GPS didn't understand the B&B address, so it could only get us to a nearby street. My printed directions took us one street further than that, but it was blank beyond that point. To make things worse, the Bath country roads are EXTREMELY narrow, with high embankments on either side, lined with massive hedges. It's made even worse when people decide to park on the side of the road! It was now dusk and Dad was having trouble seeing, as it was getting quite backcountry with no lights.

We finally turned around (very carefully--it was about an 8-point turn) and went back to a little pub we'd seen to ask directions. If we'd only known, we were within a mile of the B&B when we turned around. However, we finally got the directions and made it there! We never got lost....we only thought we got lost. :D

Raquelle--The drive had, of course, taken much longer than we all expected. We were quite sick of the car and had ceased to be consoled by the shortbread cookies Grandma offered everyone and the wilted granola bars reposing in my handbag. The last twenty minutes or so, Gramps indulged his sense of humor and began insisting that any number we saw on any sign was telling us the number of miles left.

"Thirty miles," he said resignedly, as we passed a sign.

"Really?" Grandma moaned, not having noticed the number simply indicated the speed limit. :D

"Seventeen miles," he intoned, reading a sign that indicated the distance to another town. "Twenty five miles...."

We passed a cemetary. "That's where we're all gonna end up, 'cause it'll take so long to get there," he said dolefully.

"That's where YOU'RE going to end up if you don't be quiet!" Grandma threatened.

Mom and I got the giggles, which was nice. Not much else to giggle about when you're ooching down a dark road in the middle of nowhere and are hard put not to climb the embankment because of the narrow lane. :D

Heather--When we arrived, there was only fifteen minutes left of their stated dinner-serving time so we bolted from the cars and headed inside.

Well, the welcome we got made up for the nasty ride! They were quite calm and low-key and cheerful, took our dinner orders and told us to relax and unload for fiften minutes while they prepared our meals. The rooms were cute and had lovely views of the countryside. Raquelle and I were on the second floor with a great view of the sunset over the horse pasture. Ahhhh!

Raquelle--Heather is leaving out a lot of important description. Tsk tsk! She just calls it "cute B&B." Sigh.

The B&B is known as "The Old Malthouse." It a low, stone building that appears to be several hundred years old. There is a small cark park in the back, which backs up to a grassy meadow. An apple tree stands off to the side, flowers are everywhere around the house and near the meadow, and there is a small birdbath in the picturesque back yard.

Inside the building is the dining room, a cozy dimly-lit dark-wooded room, with small candles burning cheerfully on each table. There is also a sitting room, lit by low, warm lamplight. In the sitting room is a coffee table with books and magazines in one corner, a wooden table for games like Scrabble in another corner, a comfortable couch in another, and a small bar in the other. Several older gentlemen were sitting on stools at the tiny bar, sipping their "pint of bitter" and talking local chit-chat in staid voices with delightful accents. The atmosphere and the people reminded all of us very strongly of something out of a James Herriot book.

Our rooms were cozy, but roomy. Everyone quickly voted that Heather and I had to have the room upstairs, as the rest of the family didn't want to have to keep climbing up and down the stairs. Heather and I accepted this inflexible decree of the Medes and Persians with humility and docility, having noticed right off the bat that the upstairs room was also the biggest and nicest room. :D We kept it mum and this fact didn't dawn on everyone else until a day or two later. :D :D

Heather--And then - dinner. Words can't describe how GOOD the food was! Wow! During the three nights we ate there (not to mention the breakfasts) everything we tried was excellent! This first night, I had garlic bread with mozzarella cheese on it, baked salmon with mozzarella and tomato on it, and homemade apple cake. Hit the spot!

And as soon as possible afterward, we all hit the sack! Raquelle and I took a couple minutes to admire our huge old wardrobe, shift the chairs and wicker coffe table around to make room for our suitcases and then flop into bed.

Raquelle--the other rooms had two twin beds. Our room had a double bed and a cot. Heather claimed the cot right away. I let her have it. I sat on it for a moment and noticed that it was deliciously springy, whereas my bed was a little on the hard side. However, I also noticed after a moment that springy was a good word---you could feel each and every spring through the thin mattress. Hmmm. Go ahead, Heather....you can keep the cot. :D

Heather noticed the problem about two minutes after getting in bed. After a few moments of brainstorming, we collected all the pillows and extra pillows (we'd each brought our own travel chiropractic pillow and didn't need them) and she laid them in rows all down the cot, and then put the sheet over them and laid on it. This made her inexpressibly comfy and happy and she lived happily ever after.

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